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Opinions vary on openly gay bishop

As might be expected, local Episcopal leaders were just as bemused as the rest of the church upon hearing of the appointment of an openly gay clergyman, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The Rev. Robinson, 56, was appointed Aug. 5 at the Episcopal General Convention in Minneapolis. He has reportedly lived with his male partner for 13 years.

Pastor Duncan Clark of St. Charles and St. Paul’s Episcopal churches of Poulsbo and East Bremerton, respectively, worried about the long-term damage.

Just back from a visit to Africa on missionary work, Clark said he’s traveled the world enough to know that the rest of the world’s Episcopals — and the Christian world in general — consider U.S. citizens arrogant. Too wrapped up in their own affairs to care how such an appointment may affect others.

“It flies against all the rulings of the national church and many churches may disassociate themselves from the American (Episcopal) Church.” He said.

“My congregation is very upset. I have an awful lot of work now” to keep them together and help them understand.

“I’m not in favor of (gay bishops) but probably 10 of them are gay — but won’t say. Coming out like this is making a big deal of it. A lot of people are going to leave the church.”

Clark brought up a matter most may not have considered — finances.

“When congregations lose people and when churches break away, it’s a financial blow to the American Episcopal Church.” He said budgets and projects will be in disarray.

“It isn’t about him (Robinson). It’s about the whole church,” declared Clark. “If dioceses (larger regions) of the church break off, it will destroy the national church’s budget.”

He said the issue may split the church into “liberal” and “conservative” sides. There will be fighting over property.

Clark came to the area in March. He has been a priest 19 years, and has lived in Washington nine years. He has 200-250 in his congregation.

“It’s not about love or hate,” he said. “We love everyone — but that said, we’re not allowed to let everyone do anything ...”

The Rev. Mike Morrissey of St. Bede’s in Port Orchard was also new to his congregation, and a little hesitant to say much.

“I think there’s a great deal of pain and a great deal of joy on both sides” of the issue.

“There will be a significant amount of fallout,” he admits, “at both the national and international level.”

He said it’s possible some of the older dioceses may break away — but that is by no means certain.

“My congregation has adopted a ‘Wait and see’ approach,” he said. There are about 150 people in St. Bede’s congregation.

The Rev. Canon Joyce McConnell of Faith Episcopal in Kingston actually attended the general convention.

“I was not there as a voting member,” she said. “But I feel the middle way was (followed) with courtesy and grace ... There are some who are happy and some unhappy with this.”

She said while the appointment does create tension, “The Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth. In every denomination, there’s always been gay clergy, and now they can be open ... but then again, who can say?” she said, hinting at a backlash.

Gays in the church have been addressed by the Anglican Communion, a worldwide organization said to represent 77 million people, including about 2.3 million in the Episcopal Church in the U.S. In 1998, a resolution was approved prohibiting homosexual practices.

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